Archive for the ‘composition’ Category

Ruminations During a Three-Day Holiday Respite

September 4, 2016

archaic

I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves. Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

All good poetry is the overflow of powerful feelings . . . The imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.

William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads

The first key to writing is to write, not to think. . . . You write your first draft with your heart; you rewrite with your head.

Sean Connery, Finding Forrester

I awoke this morning to my blog alerting me that thirteen days have passed since my last post. That was not intentional, though unplugging for a season has its rewards, so argues William Powers in his excellent book Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. 

Two weeks of high school are now in the books, and the three-day holiday weekend respite has been delicious so far. From the moment I walked out of the school Friday afternoon, my mind has been seething with memories of the past two weeks of classes–all of them invigorating. In the philosophy and art history classes, I’ve been employing Nietzsche’s model of Apollo vs. Dionysus, which he set forth in his 1872 work The Birth of Tragedy. In this work he argues that the creative life is a constant struggle between the forces of Apollo (order, structure, reason) and Dionysus (chaos, spontaneity, passion). As an artist I have grown to appreciate that attempt for balance over the years. I have posted quotes above from Nietzsche’s novel as well as Wordsworth’s theory of poetry and the excellent lines from the motion picture Finding Forrester. All creative attempts embody a shaky counterbalance of order and spontaneity, and I for one like to lead out with my passion, then let reason clean it up subsequently.

For the past several days, I have experienced a series of delightful explosions in my philosophy and art history classes as we have explored the thought and creations of the ancient Greeks. I have studied this material throughout most of my life, and believed I had it organized in a logical (boring) way in the form of “lesson plans”. But the students’ questions and my serious responses never follow the lesson plans, and I find that delightful, always. And I’m confident that many of the students do as well.  After all, the questions are theirs. Nevertheless, there remain those students who prefer to have everything laid out in logical order so they can study their material, write their essays properly (boring) and take their tests (boring) and see their scores (which to me are always imperfect indicators of their excellence in thinking). My sentiments are about as subtle as a freight train, yes?

So . . . I am using this three-day holiday to clean up my lesson plans and present a more orderly package next week. Meanwhile I will continue to explore this Apollo/Dionysus balance. I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible, a very sobering and deeply gratifying experience in thoughtful reading. My favorite character is Ada, a crippled teenager with deep thoughts, who experienced healing later in life.  Her creed was expressed as follows:

Tall and straight I may appear, but I will always be Ada inside. A crooked little person trying to tell the truth. The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to find out.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

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Workshop Ponderings

May 2, 2016

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The Bible opens with the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is an adequate summary statement, but the curious reader wants more.  And the following verses provide more:

And the world was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved over the face of the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.

There is a quality image: a world of chaos, a Mind that is brooding, moving, and suddenly creation occurs.  As one continues to read the account, the record shows God creating the world by a series of divisions, organizations.  The artist Robert Motherwell said that drawing was the division, the organization of space.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in “The American Scholar” testified that the scholar of the first age received into himself the world around, brooded thereon, gave it the new arrangement of his thought, and uttered it again.  It came into him life.  It went from him truth.

In about an hour, I will stand before my second watercolor workshop in the midst of this circuit I’ve been traveling. This will be a plein air watercolor workshop.  And my sincere hope is that the participants experience this parallel that Emerson drew from the opening verses of Genesis. They will stand enveloped in a world swirling with myriads of visual stimuli, holding before them a void, a square white rectangle.  As they ponder this visual world of complexity, their minds will begin to sort, to sift, to edit, and as their brushes move over the surface of the papers, worlds will begin to flow out of their brushes, first the wash, then the divisions, and finally the focused details.  There is little more rewarding than watching a world flow out of the tip of your brush, and realize that you are the one creating this world.

The Bible says that God created humans in his own image.  What is that image of God, that imago Dei?  I believe it is that essential urge to create.  The first word written about God identified him as a creator.  And he created people after his image.  My position is that people, by nature, create.  They have to, because it is in their essential nature to create.

Gotta go.  Workshop begins in one hour and five minutes, and I still have to drive to the location.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Thanksgiving Hangover

November 27, 2015

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drawing

Throughout this lovely Thanksgiving holiday season, I have managed to awaken every morning without an alarm and rise around 6:00.  I felt every morning that the muse was stirring, and I usually responded with a watercolor attempt, followed by quality reading and writing.  This morning I awoke again around 6:00 to a dark, rainy climate, and immediately sensed a Thanksgiving Hangover–no appointments today, no time to spend with friends or family, no culinary feast to enjoy, just a quiet, dark day to do as I please.  I found myself in the mood to read first, then sketch later.  The dim morning light never did intensify, so I finally looked out the window at a tree in the neighborhood and decided to give it a try with pencil.  The effort contained its own reward;  I always enjoy the process of making art, regardless of the outcome.  The process is always more fulfilling than the final picture viewing, for me.

I pulled a book from my library that I have enjoyed immensely since the mid 1980’s: Heinz Zahrnt, The Question of God: Prostestant Theology in the Twentieth Century, published in 1966.   It opens with the theological revolution of Karl Barth, and these words really resonated with me today:

Once it has pleased God to speak, all theology, being human speech about God, can only be a stammering repetition, a spelling out of what God has said, a thinking over of his thoughts.  

A long time ago, when I was in the pastoral ministry, I harbored these ideas as I went about the task of preparing weekly for the church pulpit. Convinced that God had spoken, I tried faithfully to reproduce in word and action the essence of the New Testament message.  Today I feel similar sensations as a plein air artist–the creation before me speaks in all its grandeur, and I haltingly attempt to capture its essence on paper with pencil and watercolor.  The response never reaches the heights of the primary stimulus, but boy, what a rush to participate in the task!  This morning has already been sublime, just from moments spent trying to record the essence of a tree in a sketchbook and writing in my journal responses from the heart to what I’m reading this morning.

Thanks for reading.

I make art to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

A Meaningful and Needed Gap Between Responsibilities

August 21, 2015

imageMoving into my final weekend of the summer, I was tortured as I attempted to prepare my classes for Monday while looking up from time to time at this small watercolor I began weeks ago and laid aside. And so this evening, I decided to move on a recent idea–creating a serpentine line of grasses, foliage and beach debris, connecting the dark green area on the lower left ultimately to the horizon line of the lagoon. The process was enjoyable, as I combined masquing with drybrush, pencil and blotting to create this meandering line of terrain. Though I did not get out any of his works, the drybrush watercolor sketches of Andrew Wyeth were my inspiration, as they have been since before I started the Artist-in-Residence last June. I suppose what I am saying is that I had the “essence” of Wyeth’s compositions in my visual memory as I worked on this piece this evening.

The painting time has been delicious, and I’m appreciative for that space. Now it is time to return to classroom preparations. Monday is approaching quickly.

Thanks for reading. I hope to have time, space and a quality idea to post on the blog tomorrow or sometime this weekend.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.